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Commentary: Solving the infrastructure crisis

We have an infrastructure crisis. Roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, pipelines, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, everything, everywhere is wearing out.

The Interstate 35W bridge collapse and the train wreck last week in Philadelphia are spectacular examples, but there are others in our own backyards, on a much smaller scale, that are symptomatic of the problem. And not all of it is in the public sector or about transportation or roads. Sometimes it’s as simple and as essential as electricity.

Unlike newer subdivisions built with buried lines, our electricity comes in on a pole line that goes through our backyard and serves seven or eight homes. The poles that carry the line are ancient. The electric wires are lost in a tree canopy in urgent need of trimming. Several years ago, when we moved in, I noticed that the pole supporting the transformer and the feed to our house was badly weathered and cracked. A call to the power company produced an inspector, who came out, hammered at the base of the pole, looked it over and pronounced it fit. There was no date on it, so I asked him how old he thought it was. He said probably 1940s, maybe 1950s — meaning it had been weathering, presumably with the transformer, cables and all the fittings, for over 60 years.
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